Debbie Maguire walks on a path of light, spreading love and goodwill wherever she can. By all accounts, the Mercy Hospital El Reno nurse does so without hesitation or respect of persons – the kind of life that inspires.
Maguire’s deeds so impressed the Oklahoma Chapter of the March of Dimes, she was recently honored Case Manager of the Year for her tireless work for Mercy patients.
“Debbie truly cares about people,” said Doug Danker, Mercy’s chief nurse in El Reno. “This isn’t just a job to her. She’ll go the extra mile to ensure a patient’s needs are met, even if it means spending money out of her own pocket. Everything she does is heartfelt.”
Onlookers say there’s a light embedded in Maguire’s heart – one deeply devoted to caring and healing. Over the years she has touched countless lives with an energetic, compassionate spirit that has come to define her life.
Maguire long envisioned a small hospital chapel where visitors could go to meditate and pray. She spent many of the past 18 years as a registered nurse lobbying for a chapel, only to have her requests unfulfilled.
Despite the inaction, Maguire prayed and remained hopeful.
Then, through a series of fateful events, the City of El Reno invited Mercy Health this summer to inherit the hospital’s entire operation. The invitation came on the heels of Mercy’s management of the hospital. By then, Maguire’s vision for a chapel not only appeared realistic, but appropriate.
Maguire’s heart soared.
“I felt for the longest time there was a great need for a chapel, a place where people could find refuge and pray,” said Maguire, 53. “I was so excited when Mercy embraced the idea.”
A chapel only seemed fitting to Mercy’s ministry, which has long been guided by faithful Sisters of Mercy who journeyed far to heal the sick and spread God’s word. From founder Catherine McAuley who opened the first House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland, in 1827 to the five Sisters who boldly ventured to the wilds of Indian Territory in 1884, everything done at Mercy has been rooted in prayer.
And dedicated servants like Maguire are held in high esteem.
“Debbie Maguire embodies the spirit of Mercy,” said Tom Edelstein, Mercy of Oklahoma’s vice president of mission and ethics. “She possesses all the spiritual virtues we so cherish here at Mercy – in spades.”
Maguire’s work thus seemed destined. She and a nursing colleague – Linda Austin – soon began to painstakingly transform a Mercy waiting room into a chapel. They found a local artist who created a magnificent, hand-carved wooden cross. They then discovered antique, wooden pews from the old El Reno Sanitarium that carpenters cut into smaller pews.
Today, the sanctuary is open to all visitors, many of whom sign a guest book with words of praise and thanks.
One visitor entered the chapel to pray for her ailing grandmother, writing, “Thank you for this quiet place where I can get on my knees and talk to God.” Another wrote, “Dear Lord Jesus please heal my momma – protect her with a million angels.”
“Good job; beautiful work,” yet another guest wrote simply. “Chapel will be blessing to the community!”
The Sisters of Mercy never had a doubt.
“I’m proud of that chapel,” Maguire said with a grin. “I’ve had people call me at the house to tell me they came to the hospital today to pray. One lady told me, ‘I want you to know God is there.’ And He is.”
So is Debbie Maguire.
Stories of Maguire’s compassion are legendary at Mercy.
Once, an employee suffered a stroke. Maguire raised money to pay his gas and electric bill.
“Debbie didn’t stop there, though,” Danker said. “At Christmas, Debbie made sure the family had a tree and gifts and a nice dinner. That’s Debbie. She’s just a caring, thoughtful person.”
These days Maguire serves Mercy Hospital El Reno as a case manager, routinely intervening on the patient’s behalf to ensure they have the right resources for their care. She takes time to visit personally with each patient to understand their needs, often long after they’ve been discharged from the hospital.
Maguire once spearheaded a fundraising drive to begin “Helping Hands,” a program that pays for medications when they become too costly for a patient. Thousands of dollars were raised because of her passion and tenacity.
“She’s been a blessing to countless people,” said Phyllis Caster, Debbie’s mother and a retired nurse who worked 16 years alongside her daughter at the hospital. “But she’s always been tender and loving and caring, ever since she was a child.”
For Maguire, the path is one of faith and hope and healing.
“I’m not a special person,” Maguire said humbly. “I’m just one person trying to help those in need.”